Speculations surround North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s health

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty ImagesBy JOOHEE CHO and HAKYUNG KATE LEE, ABC News

(SEOUL, South Korea) — The South Korean government said Tuesday that there were no signs suggesting that North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, has fallen ill.

“What we know now is that Chairman Kim Jong Un is in a suburban area together with close aides and seems to be in normal condition,” an official at the president’s office said. “He is not in Pyongyang. But certainly not in the ‘Myohyang Mountain’ area as certain media had reported.”

Speculation surrounding the North Korean leader’s health status grew on Tuesday after Seoul-based NK Daily reported citing an unnamed source that Kim was recovering from cardiovascular surgery in the Myohyang Mountain area.

On the same day, CNN, citing an anonymous source, reported that Kim was in “grave danger” after surgery.

“Regarding a recent report from some media on North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong Un’s health issues, we have nothing to confirm and there is no special movement that is noticeable within North Korea,” said a spokesperson at the presidential office.

Meanwhile, a high-profile human rights activist who had made a surprise appearance at President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address in 2018, commented on Kim Jong Un’s health.

“What I know is that he [Kim Jong Un] had a surgery and is in bad health at the moment,” Ji Seong Ho, a North Korean defector who secured a lawmaker position in the conservative opposition party in this year’s national election, told ABC News. “I cannot confirm who the exact sources are, since their lives are at risk if I reveal them. But I have been told that Kim’s health was deteriorating in the past few months and that there was a discussion about a successor, too.”

Questions about the North Korean leader’s health arose after he missed a celebration honoring his late grandfather and state founder Kim Il Sung on April 15. It was the first time he missed the anniversary which is considered the most important national holiday in the regime.

Kim Jong Un was last seen in public presiding over a political meeting of North Korea’s ruling party on April 11 where he called for “strict measures to prevent infiltration of the novel coronavirus.”

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